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How To Be a Good Manager: 13 Tips on Managing Successfully

Where most roles come with defined hard skills, good management involves the long-term mastery of several soft skills. Here’s how to become the great manager you know you can be.

By Fellow.app  •   November 25, 2021  •   12 min read

It’s one thing to be a good employee. It’s another thing entirely to be a good manager. That’s because where hard skills – those first developed in university classes – are key to on-the-ground work, management requires soft skills. Namely, management is less rooted in technical know-how than people skills. 

These skills, of course, take years of refinement to truly master. The thing is, great managers must excel at them. So if you’ve been newly promoted to management, you might not hit all the soft skill marks right off the bat. And that’s okay – you’re probably closer than you think!

With the below tips on how to be a good manager, you’ll have the tools you need to perfect your soft skills. This journey can be time-consuming and require immense patience, but it’s far from impossible. Plus, you can always ask your team for help.

What skills do good managers have?

Effective managers don’t go it alone. Being a successful manager means working with the folks in your corner – namely, your team. When you prioritize this teamwork, your department is more likely to complete its tasks well and on time. But you’re not there only to manage tasks – your job is also managing people. To that end, you’ll need the following soft skills:

  • Collaboration. As someone in a managerial position, you must create a work environment in which everyone feels comfortable and excited to share their needs and ideas. Doing so requires taking an enthusiastic approach to all things work and promoting your company culture. It also means holding regular, discussion-heavy team meetings alongside one-on-one meetings where team members can directly address collaboration and delegation concerns.
  • A vision for long-term growth. Speaking of one-on-ones, a good manager fosters team growth by fostering personal growth. That means actually getting to know your employees, what drives them, and what they want next in their career development. It also means identifying what doesn’t work for them and eliminating these roadblocks so you achieve peak employee productivity. Encourage your team members to openly share all this information – you’ll improve employee engagement and productivity.
  • Communication. Arguably the most important managerial trait, communication skills can transform disconnected teams into vibrant, productive ones. You should maintain regular contact with your employees during processes such as goal-setting, task delegation, and the sharing of peer feedback. Plus, communication can be key to motivating your team members. If you communicate kindly and openly with them when you need help, they might do the same when they need help.

Guide your team to success.

Show up prepared to your meetings and never forget what was said, decided, or assigned with a tool like Fellow.

Are managers and leaders the same?

Managers are often seen as team leaders. However, the formal definitions of management and leadership differ. The key leadership vs. management difference is that managers focus on today, whereas leaders focus on the future. Managers work day-to-day to execute long-term leadership goals by harnessing their team members’ skills and passions and reinforcing the company culture.

That said, managers and leaders aren’t always distinct. After all, leadership is a quality, whereas management is a job. In fact, some of the best managers are also great leaders. That’s because you can theoretically focus on optimizing your team’s present-day time management and long-term performance. However, managers exist in distinct roles because they act as extensions of leaders such as entrepreneurs, CEOs, and founders.

13 tips on how to be a good manager 

Now, you know that good management is rooted in collaboration, growth, and communication. You also know that managers focus on making the day-to-day best of their teams, goals, and company culture. But familiarity with these broader, more abstract ideas isn’t the same as knowing the steps you should take to see them through. That’s where the below 12 tips on how to be a good manager come in. Follow them to be the best manager possible.

1 Align your organization’s goals and mission

A good manager delegates tasks to their team members and explains how to execute them. A great manager takes additional time to explain why these tasks matter. When your team members more clearly understand the purpose of their work, they may feel more motivated. With more motivation often comes more productivity – and that’s among your key managerial goals.

2 Be empathetic

Empathy is a valuable skill in virtually any situation, and it’s especially important for management. There’s science to back this notion, as encapsulated in a study from management consultancy Development Dimensions International. This study found that empathy is correlated with great management. Its results span 15,000 participants ranging from managers to leaders across 300 organizations, 18 countries, and 20 sectors.

So, then, what exactly is empathy in a managerial context? Well, an empathetic manager values, respects, and affirms their team members’ emotions as much as the need to prioritize tasks. Empathetic managers work with employees who feel overlooked or overworked to devise a solution that benefits everyone on the team. They also make themselves available when positive emotions, such as interest in career development opportunities, emerge.

The emotional openness and availability that come with empathetic management typically lead to stronger employee-manager relationships. As a result, employees may feel more motivated to complete their work on time and with high quality. Their productivity might also increase. 

3 Delegate properly

Proper delegation means more than throwing tasks at a wall and hoping they might stick. It means looking at each task that needs completion and asking yourself, “Who has the time and skills to best complete this task on deadline?” It can also mean sussing out team members who have the potential to do the task well. This way, you might check a box off your task list while helping an employee learn and grow.

The balance to strike is one of time management, skill distribution, and employee development. If a marketing client suddenly needs social ad copy within 24 hours, you’ll probably want to delegate the work to your most efficient digital marketer. If you have a week to put the copy together, you could assign it to someone else. That someone could be a lower-level team member looking to step up or someone whom you see as fit for the role. 

4 Communicate clearly at all times

Communication starts with delegating and explaining tasks and their value, and it certainly doesn’t stop there. It continues with the establishment of clear, open channels for all work questions and discussions. It can mean, for example, implementing team communication tools and monitoring them to ensure no ideas, questions, or concerns go overlooked. 

When you set up and govern team communication channels, your team members can always review their objectives and see the next steps to take. Additionally, open communication channels facilitate team members asking one another for whatever they need. Your team members benefit individually, as does the team overall.

5 Develop meaningful, comprehensible goals

According to employer-rating company Comparably, 42 percent of employees say unclear goals are the most stressful part of their work. To avoid placing this burden on your employees, provide clear instructions and target metrics when you delegate tasks to your team. For example, if you need a team member to write an article about new HR developments for your company blog, provide an outline. This topic alone isn’t enough guidance.

Your ability to provide obvious instructions and metrics starts with the development of SMART goals. These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. All these qualities make it easier to explain the accompanying tasks to your team members. A 1,500-word blog about a new HR law due on the 27th is much more achievable than just “blog about HR.”

6 Seek feedback from your team

Great managers drive their people toward their best performance. That part of managerial work isn’t quite possible without knowing how your team feels about your methodology. After all, if you think you’re assisting your team in meaningful ways but leaving them in the dark, you’re not doing your job. So ask your team for feedback about how you’re doing, and ensure them they won’t be penalized for their insights. Fellow enables you and your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance.

That lack of penalty is paramount (which is why anonymous feedback tools might help here). Think about the last time you were a team member struggling with a manager’s direction – wasn’t the thought of addressing that pretty scary? Now that you’re a manager, you should actively let your team members know they can set that fear aside. 

Simultaneously, you should figure out how to avoid taking feedback personally. If your team members are telling you how you could change to benefit them, they’re not doing so to hurt you. They’re doing so to help you – namely, to help you help them. When you’re all aligned, all your processes will proceed more efficiently and error-free.

7 Balance individual performance and team goals

As a manager, it’s tempting to look at the big picture without looking at the tiny moving parts. Namely, it’s easy to overlook that high team performance can’t exist without similarly high individual performance. A great manager prioritizes the latter to drive the former.

To shift your managerial habits in this direction, focus on clear, efficient communication and collaboration with all team members. Don’t stop there – continue by keeping all individuals’ tasks aligned with your mission statement and team goals. Be sure to explicitly delineate why a team member’s tasks, your mission statement, and their overlap matter. In doing so, you can motivate each employee and push your entire team closer to your goals.

8 Always be transparent

A good manager gives their employees everything they must know to do their best, even if that information isn’t what they want to hear. In other words, good managers are universally transparent. They don’t sugarcoat the negatives, though they don’t deliver them harshly. Instead, they give their teams the full picture of all the highs, lows, and everything in between.

To achieve this constant transparency, commit yourself to regularly providing feedback and company updates in an honest but kind manner. For feedback pertaining solely to one person, make one-on-ones your go-to. To share potential concerns for the whole company, hold team meetings or send team-wide emails. These two approaches keep your employees in the loop on how both they and your whole organization are performing. In short, they achieve transparency. 

9 Listen more than you speak

Leaders are the idea banks at your company, and managers get teams following through on these ideas. That’s why you should create spaces for your team members to openly, freely share their own ideas about how to improve your processes. And then, you should listen.

Most importantly, you should listen more than you speak. Yes, your job is to make the best of your team, but your team members may best know what does and doesn’t work for them. After all, even the best managers aren’t mind readers. So make sure your employees are heard without interruption, and then, act on what you hear. The result is a team that knows it can make a difference by simply speaking up.

10 Inspire your team

When your team members are struggling with certain tasks or simply feeling overworked, you can – and should – help motivate them. The same goes for times when the entire company, or even your whole sector, might be facing challenges. Since you’re the person to whom your team members report, you’re also the person best suited to light a mild fire under their computer chairs. 

Yes, inspiration is technically a leadership responsibility. However, since you bridge your team with your leadership, you can step up to the plate in times of need. Take whatever steps necessary to alleviate employee stress and encourage your team to keep going. That could mean implementing employee appreciation initiatives, hands-on coaching, or bringing concerns to leadership. Ultimately, you’re aiming for a positive work environment in which your team feels primed to reach the finish line in all scenarios.

11 Be consistent

Let’s face it: All these management tips might look easy on paper, but in execution, they might prove more challenging. The worst thing you can do to reckon with this challenge is stop. Doing so makes you appear uncommitted and inconsistent. And great managers must be consistent and reliable. 

Think about it like this: If you worked for a flaky, erratic manager, would you come to trust them? Probably not. Without this trust, you might struggle to understand whether you’re performing well or being appreciated. This lack of understanding might discourage you from doing additional work. The result is….well, everything a manager wants to avoid.

As a manager, being consistent means setting precedents and sticking to them. Keep your instant messaging channel focused on delegation and progress updates, and reserve feedback for one-on-ones. Set regular office hours every week during which employees can swing by to offer feedback or ask for help. If you’re consistent in your managerial approaches, your team will better know what you expect – and how to help you achieve it.

12 Accept responsibility for your team

It can be anxiety-inducing to oversee a team, what with all the performance marks resting on your shoulders. There’s also the nerves that can come with negative feedback or, worse yet, disciplining employees. You can’t avoid these less savory aspects of your work. Instead, you should accept responsibility for all your team’s tasks and behavior and be ready to step in however necessary.

For example, let’s say an employee whom you really like turns out to be withholding certain information from their teammates. This isn’t your time to coddle that employee. You’ll need to sternly put your foot down, as you’re responsible for getting your other team members what they need from that employee. It’s not pleasant, but it is accepting responsibility. When you accept this responsibility, your team fares better, even if seeing that can be difficult in the moment.

13 Use technology

Clearly, managers can’t go it alone – effective management means that your team is fully in your corner. But even a big group of talented, efficient employees needs technology to reach peak performance. Team communication tools, project management platforms, file storage systems, and all kinds of other technology can help you excel. 

For example, when it comes to meetings, Fellow is your best friend. Fellow’s highly user-friendly, straightforward meeting planning, execution, and follow-up tools make big team conversations much easier. These tools also streamline one-on-ones and all other types of meetings. It’s just one example of how adding plenty of apps to your arsenal brings out your top managerial potential.

With these tips, you’ll manage

Great management prioritizes communication, collaboration, and employee growth while focusing on both tasks and employee needs. It also involves a heck of a lot of meetings, and that’s why great managers need Fellow. Our meeting agenda templates, action item features, peer feedback tools, and OKR setting platform make collaboratively, clearly guiding your team much easier. You won’t just have team-wide or one-on-one conversations – you’ll hold discussions that bring out the best in everyone.

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